Climate change is predicted to alter the geographic distribution of a wide variety of taxa, including butterfly species. Research has focused primarily on high latitude species in North America, with no known studies examining responses of taxa in the southeastern United States. The Diana fritillary (Speyeria diana
) has experienced a recent range retraction in that region, disappearing from lowland sites and now persisting in two phylogenetically distinct high elevation populations. These findings are consistent with the predicted effects of a warming climate on numerous taxa, including other butterfly species in North America and Europe. We used ecological niche modeling to predict future changes to the distribution of S. diana
under several climate models. To evaluate how climate change might influence the geographic distribution of this butterfly, we developed ecological niche models using Maxent. We used two global circulation models, the community climate system model (CCSM) and the model for interdisciplinary research on climate (MIROC), under low and high emissions scenarios to predict the future distribution of S. diana
. Models were evaluated using the receiver operating characteristics area under curve (AUC) test and the true skill statistics (TSS) (mean AUC = 0.91 ± 0.0028 SE, TSS = 0.87 ± 0.0032 SE for representative concentration pathway (RCP) = 4.5; and mean AUC = 0.87 ± 0.0031 SE, TSS = 0.84 ± 0.0032 SE for RCP = 8.5), which both indicate that the models we produced were significantly better than random (0.5). The four modeled climate scenarios resulted in an average loss of 91% of suitable habitat for S. diana
by 2050. Populations in the southern Appalachian Mountains were predicted to suffer the most severe fragmentation and reduction in suitable habitat, threatening an important source of genetic diversity for the species. The geographic and genetic isolation of populations in the west suggest that those populations are equally as vulnerable to decline in the future, warranting ongoing conservation of those populations as well. Our results suggest that the Diana fritillary is under threat of decline by 2050 across its entire distribution from climate change, and is likely to be negatively affected by other human-induced factors as well.
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